Admitted former pot-smoker Barack Obama says he doesn't think marijuana is "very different" from cigarettes (maybe he was doing it wrong, like Bill "I didn't inhale" Clinton), doesn't like that "poor kids" get locked up for marijuana possession, and said it was even less dangerous than alcohol. But don't expect his opinions to translate to policy changes. He's just the president after all.
The New Yorker's David Remnick has released his long-awaited profile of President Obama and, no surprises here, it's a long one. Clocking in at almost 17,000 words, the piece has several interesting insights, one of which comes when Remnick asked the president about the legalization of marijuana, and points out that Obama did not seem eager "to evolve with any dispatch and get in front of the issue." But Obama still says some things that would have been unthinkable for a president only a few years ago.
"As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," Obama said. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol." When Remnick pressed on whether marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, Obama thought about it for a while and said it was less dangerous "in terms of its impact on the individual consumer," but emphasized that "it's not something I encourage." The president expressed particular concern with the disproportionate number of arrests for marijuana possession among minorities. "Middle-class kids don't get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do," he said, adding that individual users shouldn't be locked up "for long stretches of jail time."
Given that Obama says he's quit smoking cigarettes (which are kinda like weed to him) but still drinks socially (which he says could be more dangerous than pot) and has previously laughed off the suggestion that marijuana legalization would be beneficial (and continues to head a federal government waging a war on marijuana), his comments shouldn't be interpreted as much more than off-the-cuff punditry. Just hope it's not part of the emerging federal moralism on alcohol use.